I asked for help

I asked for help when I was 12.

I looked, alone, in my middle school library

at a teenage health book. It told me that

depression is an illness. It is real. You can be helped.

It took me days to summon up the courage

find the words to say, “I think that I’m depressed.”

“Everyone’s depressed!” was the response.

I left it there.
I asked for help when I was 13, 15,

already suicidal, finding school a torment.

“All teenagers have mood swings.”

“It may be PMS, so track your periods.”

I asked for help when I was 17.

I got propranolol. Whatever that meant.

I didn’t feel it did much, but someone cared.
I asked for help when I was 20.

The psychiatrist, the first I’d met,

portrayed me as a liar and implied that I might drink.

He sneered at my choices

of university

of course

of fiancé

and gave me fluoxetine, which sent me high.

He didn’t care.
I saw another guy who thought I had bipolar.

Lithium, he said, was the drug of choice but

it can cause thyroid problems

renal problems




You need blood tests


chest X-ray

and you must not get pregnant, no matter what.

No one talked it through with me.

No one helped me understand what it might mean to have bipolar.

No one gave me options.

It was lithium, or nothing.

I chose nothing.
I asked for help when I was 25.

I filled in a depression scale.

No, I cannot cope

and yes I cry a lot

and yes I think about death.

My toddler’s behaviour is out of control

my newborn’s crying is out of control

my depression is out of control.

The Health Visitor frowned.

“You’re score is very high.

I think it’s just because you’re self aware.”

And I had thought it was because

I was so depressed.
My GP tried to help.

With sertraline

and paroxitine

and trazadone

and venlafaxine

with no onward referral

and I remained in a kind of hell

an empty of husk of a mother

an empty husk of a person.
I asked for help when I was 27

if by asking for help you mean

spewing the contents of my medicine cabinet

from my stomach to the floor

of a curtained A&E cubicle.

When my vital organs were deemed well 

I went home

five pills of chlorpromazine

in a brown childproof bottle.

They sent a CPN.

“What do you want from me?” she sighed.

“This service is for people

with serious mental health problems.”
And she left.
They sent me for assessment with a clinical psychologist.

At last my problems, the overdose, seemed taken seriously

and my name went on the waiting list.

We didn’t hear and didn’t hear

and so we phoned.

“Oh, you’ve been taken of the list.

We had a case conference and

you were not in sufficient need.”
I asked for help when I was 28.

The psychiatrist looked into my file

but did not look at me.

Every session was the same:
your GP seems right

your current medication seems right

so see you in a month, then.

Repeat in August, in September, repeat repeat repeat.
I asked for help when I was 30.

and received a new and inaccurate diagnosis

something that I only knew when a letter came my way.

I did not recognise this version of the assessment

this description of my “psychopathology”

I did not recognise myself.

The unexpected upside of being told

that my personality was partially disordered

was I got the therapy I had needed 18 months ago.

I was profoundly grateful. I was profoundly angry.
I asked for help when I was 37.

I received it.


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Child and adolescent mental health, Depression, Mental health services, Psychiatry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to I asked for help

  1. Cinthia says:

    Hi. You moved me to tears. I applaud your bravery to keep going, to keep slogging on, to still be here, fighting, living, triumphing. Well done. You are an inspiration to me. Namaste

  2. lifeofmiblog says:

    Reblogged this on My Blog About Living With My Mental Illness and commented:
    So often the story I have heard. My GP is very involved in mental health awareness and sent me immediately to a psychiatrist who has also been amazing. She says most GPs should not handle patients with mental health problems, so her advice was to make it one of the first questions you ask if you are going to a new GP. We just moved and I did ask and the new GP said I would be best to continue with the other doctor and just come to her for coughs and colds….at least she was honest.
    You have done well to keep trying.

    • Nick says:

      My experience has been most people do not understand the effect of mental illness on the individual who is experiencing the illness. There are still some old attitudes out there like ; people with mental illness don’t experience the same emotions and feelings as so called ‘normal’ people, i.e., they don’t feel hurt and damaged when we ignore them or do things to them we wouldn’t do to ourselves – there mental – they don’t feel it!

      I was so shocked when I realised the depth of what I was experiencing wasn’t being taken as seriously and as urgently as it should have been. I ended up more damaged by being ignored. These days I think I realise there isn’t much the medics can do other than medication and questionable therapies. What I needed was love and answers neither of which I could get on prescription or talking to someone who couldn’t know the depth of what I was going through who didn’t love me!

  3. It is so sad to hear your story and know that it is not a one off or an exception to a rule. I just keep hoping that the more people hear about experiences like yours, which are so honest and raw, that things will start to change for the better. Thanks for continuing to share your story.

  4. Barbara says:

    Thank you for having the courage and sense to share what you are going through. It is so important to know we are not going through these times alone. I am a wife and mother to a husband and two children with mental health issues. We have had to fight for help at every stage of the journey. After twenty years I feel I know more than any professional medic, but the professionals don’t like being told what is needed. The system doesn’t work. Thank goodness for friends and family who care and who support you whatever. It takes its toll on all of us. Live today, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

    • lifeofmiblog says:

      Yes even among the professionals you are taking pot luck. Don’t give up on them, just find a better one, much can be achieved with their help. In Australia there is a web site you can go to to find mental health friendly GPs, maybe you have something similar. All the best

  5. rick says:

    I had my first panic attack during my first year of middle school,and,shortly thereafter,Tim ,the child-psychologist ,entered my life.Wrong as it was,I used to steal books books from the school library and hoard them at home.Mrs Benson,the school librarian,seemed in collusion with me.Fantastic post,Charlotte.

  6. Judy says:

    It always seems to be such a struggle to get help…..

  7. You summed up my daughter’s 22 year fight with mental illness with your poem. Moving

  8. Martin Baker says:

    Thank you, Charlotte, for your blessing to reblog this at “Gum on My Shoe”: http://www.gumonmyshoe.com/2015/06/i-asked-for-help-by-charlotte-walker.html

  9. telmamoon says:

    This is a very powerful poem. We have miles to go to improve mental health awareness not only in general but especially within the health system. Thanks for sharing and a warm hug to you.

  10. I thought you were writing about me. This poem has moved me to tears as I have read it several times feeling your pain so strongly. Your description of living with bipolar is so very accurate and I can truly relate to every line of your poem. It makes me so sad to read of your suffering and the lack of understanding by mental health professionals who are meant to be in their position to help but so very few really know how to deal with bipolar.
    As for myself it has totally blighted my life and the consequences of my extreme highs have almost destroyed my family. My huge overspending when experiencing a high led to us losing our family home which I have to live with everyday.
    I don’t experience highs anymore since I have been on medication. I have forgotten how to laugh or socialise with others apart from my dearly loved husband and sons. I have been severely depressed since last October and I am finding it difficult to leave my bed which is the only place I love to be.
    I have to be encouraged every day to at least have a shower and put on a clean pair of pyjamas and my husband always has to check that I have taken my medication not only for my mental health but I have Type 2 diabetes also. My health is not good because of all the side effects I suffer from.
    I am sorry to have completely gone off the mark from the poem you have written. I want to thank you so much for being out there and speaking out on the behalf of fellow sufferers. Take good care Charlotte because you are definetly a very special person who is touching so many lives. Love and hugs.

  11. Mrs TeePot says:

    This is so powerful and awful and I wish I could take you back in time and fight for you, for help earlier, for understanding.

  12. donttell says:

    It makes me so angry that in the year 2015 acknowledging we have mental illness and seeking treatment is akin to being treated like someone who lies about their weight hoping to be given fat burners.

  13. Cassie says:

    Thank-you for sharing your story, it was really moving. As a social worker who has worked in mental health settings for a number years I think your words have captured some of the shortcomings of the mental health system.

  14. bipolarfirst says:

    This was beautiful. So poignant. While it comes from something personal so many can relate to the pain of asking for help over and over again. Each time feeling like “this is it I cannot do this anymore I must get help”. And that help never comes. I am so glad it finally came to you. It is outrageous how difficult it is to get help. Well there is a lot of bad help. It is very hard to get help that helps.

  15. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing, I can only imagine the hell you went through for all those years. I was lucky enough to receive the help I needed relatively quickly, I don’t think I could have made it so long..

  16. ecteedoff says:

    Thank you for this. I hate we all can relate to this so well. But most of us have been asking for help since we were children, never being heard until things have gotten so bad, recovery seems so far away.

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